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Biden administration introduces divisive new rule to conserve public lands: 'A generation-defining shift'

This isn't the first time the Biden administration ruffled feathers for its stance on public lands.

This isn't the first time the Biden administration ruffled feathers for its stance on public lands.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

In April, the Biden administration announced a new rule that it says aims to better conserve around 245 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The New York Times reported that the new Public Lands Rule creates two new kinds of leases for the restoration of degraded lands and for offsetting environmental damage on BLM lands, which comprise 10% of the country.

The BLM is known for its "multiple uses" management policy that includes cattle ranching, drilling, and recreation. However, the Times reports that some of those activities have taken a toll on the environment, especially when combined with the effects of wildfires and drought, which are being exacerbated by the warming of our planet.

Not everyone was celebrating the news, however. In 2023, congressional Republicans responded to an earlier version of the lease idea by calling it a land grab that put national security at risk. 

"With this rule, President Biden is allowing federal bureaucrats to destroy our way of life," Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement in response to the final rule. He also vowed to repeal it using the Congressional Review Act.

On the other hand, environmental advocates expressed strong support, with Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, telling the Times that the rule "amounts to a generation-defining shift in how we manage our shared natural resources."

Saving our country's natural resources benefits us in a number of ways. Nature helps provide us with clean water and air, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control, per the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, restoring and protecting natural resources can help enhance ecosystems' resilience to climate hazards like flooding, sea-level rise, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. In addition, nature can help us fight the warming of our planet in the first place — trees, for instance, reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by storing it.

This isn't the first time the Biden administration ruffled feathers for its stance on public lands. For instance, in late 2023, it moved to permanently ban oil development on 10 million acres within Alaska's North Slope, which upset many politicians and industry leaders.

Meanwhile, the BLM is looking to fast-track approvals for geothermal energy exploration on its lands. Geothermal is a renewable energy source that depends on underground water reservoirs, and opportunities to access this kind of energy are especially abundant in the West.

Government officials doubled down on the new rule, saying it is a win for the environment and people. 

"Today's final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Dr. Steve Feldgus added: "The BLM received and considered over 200,000 comments on the proposed rule from individuals, state, Tribal and local governments, industry groups and advocacy organizations, which led to important improvements in this final rule. Continued broad collaboration with this diverse group of partners will be key to our implementation of this rule to ensure that our public lands are being managed for all Americans." 

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